One of your goals as a Pilates teacher is to give your client the best Pilates session you can. As a Teacher you know what to do that day with your clients. Then there are those days your client walks in and they slept funny and have some weird pain in their neck, they sprained their ankle What do you do at that moment? Even with all the Pilates knowledge you have in your head you seem to panic or your mind just goes blank.
After teaching for years and years I still have those moments. I think as a Pilates teacher our whole careers are filled with those moments. The other day was one of those moments for me with a longtime client.
My client “Jessica” came in for her weekly session. She works full time and comes on her lunch break. She does one private with me a week and her session is very important to here. She never misses or cancels last minute, always on time and ready to go! She also does her Pilates homework and a Mat class with one of my teachers in my studio another day. On this day she went into the dressing room to change and came out still wearing her black knit dress. She had forgotten to pack her Pilates clothes in her bag that day! All she had was that dress.
She did not want to give up her session. She had no time to go back home or to work or run and grab some clothes. It was her lunch break and she only had that hour. Jessica then pleaded with me to still teach her session. “We can just do upper body or just things where I can in a dress. It will be fine! You’re good, you can figure it out!!” Soon all the clients that were there for their sessions chimed in “Yes! You can do it!”
My brain just starts rattling through the whole Pilates repertoire from the mat to all the different apparatus. Could we even get on a Reformer? In a dress? Everything was just running through my head and how could I make this work to give her a) The workout she wanted and b) The workout her body needed that day for her full body movement, which is what my ultimate goal is for all my clients.
What did I do? How did I calm myself with teaching a client Pilates in a dress for the full hour? Did I just call it and say “sorry, no can do?”. No, I took a breath and still not sure I said “Ok, let’s go”
Yes, this is a very funny example of those moments but, what can you do when that sprained ankle comes in unannounced, knee or hip issue you aren’t sure of and you are left with that “what do I do” feeling? Here are some tips that no matter what it is that throws you off balance yanks that rug out from under you that even as an experienced Teacher you feel new.
Take a breath: When you panic it takes your body into a state of anxiety and the mind can just race and get overloaded with so many thoughts and nothing will be clear. Think of how important breathing is in Pilates and just inhale and exhale for a minute. Feel the body and mind just start to slow down a bit.
Go back to the basics: Take the client to the mat and start at the beginning and as you need break everything down to what you need for them at that moment, whatever the issue is you are dealing with for them. See what happens and how they are moving and feeling.
Check in with them: This sounds simple but we don’t want them all tied up in their mind of what is “wrong” or the “issue” is for them but make sure the movement is going well and that you are continuing to keep them safe as they work without them feeling like they are being thought of as “injured” or that they aren’t perfect due to that issue.
Trust yourself: This is important! You know your client and you have a relationship with them. You have built that based on them trusting you to keep them safe and challenged. After you take that breath from tip #1 tell yourself you got this!
Get a focus: This is the moment to maybe use that injury, pain or issue to get the client to have a focus for the session. Is the neck “cricked”? Focus on the length of sitting tall, standing and growing tall, lengthening from head to toe on all the moves. Try to make the session have that “theme” for them or focusing on a Principle you feel may help this moment and session.
Your whole Pilates career is one of constant learning. When those moments present themselves take that breath and know you got this! Keep it simple, direct and clear and you can’t go wrong. Your client will get that workout that they need to be healthy and happy! Maybe next time your client shows up in a dress you can know you are prepared and ready!